Poem for April 2, 2010: Lola Ridge — “Histrionics”


by Lola Ridge

Published: New Masses, July, 1926.
Transcribed: for marxists.org in January, 2002.

–Albert Parsons
went to his death
singing Annie Laurie;
didn’t another have
a rose in his coat–
or was it a pink–
dramatizing himself–

Blooded rose
hanging out of an empty
coat lapel,
or was it a pink carnation
rose color soft as sunrise
glimmering upon a gallows,
and streak of silver song
ravelled with the rain
on a filthy Chicago morning in the Eighties–
you shall outlast horizons.

Photograph from "Lola Ridge," Living Authors, A Book of Biographies, ed. Dilly Tante (New York: H. W. Wilson, 1935) 341.

Although Lola Ridge is relatively unknown to contemporary readers, she was a well-known poet and advocate of immigrants and the working class during the first half of the twentieth century. She wrote five books of poetry, edited for avant-garde magazines Others and Broom, and from 1908 through 1937 published at least sixty-one poems in magazines such as Poetry, New Republic, and The Saturday Review of Literature. Her first book, The Ghetto and Other Poems, was well received, and her poems appeared in anthologies edited by the respected William Rose Benйt and Louis Untermeyer. Her obituary in The Publishers’ Weekly characterized her as “one of America’s leading poets,” and that in the Wilson Library Bulletin stated that she was “one of the most completely sensitive of American poets” and “For her long poem called The Ghetto she was considered the ‘discovery’ of the year 1918.”

Ridge eminently qualifies as “a poet of the people” because she was an immigrant who grew up in economically poor but ethnically diverse circumstances. Rose Emily Ridge, who preferred to be called Lola, was born in Dublin, Ireland on December 12, 1873, and with her mother, later lived in New Zealand and Australia where she spent her formative years. William Drake reports that after they resettled, her mother remarried, this time to an impassioned Scottish miner who recited Shakespeare and became violent when he was inebriated. According to Ridge, the family lived in a “three-roomed shack,” the furniture of which her stepfather destroyed during his occasional “raging drunken sprees.” In 1895, while living in New Zealand, Ridge married a manager of a gold mine, and after this relationship proved unsatisfactory, she immigrated to the United States when she was thirty-four and eventually settled in New York City (The First Wave 187-89). Ridge supported herself by working as a model, an illustrator, and a factory worker, and she attended political meetings of the Ferrer Association where she met her second husband, David Lawson, whom she married in 1919.

Click here for more on Lola Ridge’s life and work.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: